Studying Martian water vapour using the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics


Europe's ExoMars missions seek to establish whether there is, or has been, any form of life on Mars. The first spacecraft of the ExoMars programme is the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which successfully arrived at Mars in Oct 2016 and will commence regular science observations in March 2018. TGO and its scientific payloads are optimised for detection and mapping of trace gases: these include gases like methane which might be biologically produced, but also includes water vapour. Water vapour is the most important volatile on Mars; its distribution affects climate, atmospheric chemistry and habitability.

In this project, the student will map the spatial and temporal variations of water vapour, through analysis of infrared spectra obtained by TGO's Russian-led ACS (Atmospheric Chemistry Suite) spectrometer suite. ACS includes three different spectrometers and at least two different observing geometries; intercomparison of water retrievals obtained using the different ACS observation types, and intercomparison with other datasets, will be performed to check the consistency of the results. The improved understanding of the distribution and variability of water vapour on Mars will be fed into climate models, will help identify potentially habitable underground niches, and will inform landing site characterization for the ExoMars rover in 2020.


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